“I think this is an educational process for the members that’s a starting point for what the budget might look like given no new revenues,” said Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the chairman of the Senate General Fund Ways and Means committee.
The plan, which most lawmakers acknowledge has little chance of being passed in its current form, makes significant cuts to many of the agencies and services funded by the General Fund.
19 percent would be cut from the court system, the Department of Mental Health would lose 24 percent, Medicaid would be trimmed 3 percent, and the budget for prisons would shrink 5 percent.
The proposed budget would transfer $287 million in sales and use taxes—fees on products purchased out of state—from the education fund to the general fund. This move was one proposed by Governor Bentley.
“It’s very bleak,” said Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), the chairman of the House General Fund Ways and Means committee, who has been one of the few lawmakers to openly join Gov. Bentley in pushing for tax increases. “There’s no question that we have got to have additional funds.”
Clouse is carrying Governor Bentley’s tax increase on car purchases and rentals in the House, though he has had to negotiate the proposal down from a 2 percent increase to 1 percent.
Clouse is also sponsoring a bill that would apply the state income tax to the FICA money already taxed by the federal government. Clouse told Yellowhammer that he’s using a ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ method for finding a tax increase palatable enough for the legislature to pass.
“I don’t know… I’m just throwing options out for the House members to look at… I don’t know what I can get out of committee,” Clouse said.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015